Saturday, February 6, 2016

Whatever Doesn't Kill You...Isn't Trying Hard Enough

Last week I made reference in this post that I had not been feeling well. To be honest, I haven't felt well for over a week prior to that post but things took a turn for the worse which prompted me to go to the doctor.

Since going to the doctor, I have felt even more ill than I did before. Two posts appearing over the weekend here and here suggested a situation dire enough to warrant a visit to the hospital. 

What, pray tell, happened to me? 

OK, let's go back in time to last Thursday, January 28th. As the day progressed, it was clear I was not getting better but was becoming even more sick. I was constantly coughing and my lungs were wheezing with every breath. I swung madly between profusely sweating or shaking from violent chills. My body was in such pain that even my hair hurt. I was a mess.  

So I returned to the doctor's office Friday morning where I provided blood and urine samples while the doctor established I needed a chest x-ray. His diagnosis? "You're a mess, David." Gee, thanks, Doc! 

While I was sitting in the patient room for one of those interminable waits for a doctor or nurse to come back, I began to feel faint. As I look around me, the room was getting darker like someone was turning down a dimmer switch. Ambient noises sounded as if I was underwater. And why was the room spinning? I didn't want to risk falling out of the chair I was sitting in so I held things together long enough to pull off my black overcoat and lay it on the floor. Then I gently lowered myself to the hard, cold floor. 

I don't know why but when I feel nauseous or dizzy or what have you, nothing works better than a lie down on a cold hard floor. Within moments, lighting returned to normal, sounds were less muffled and the room was courteous enough to cease spinning for me. After lying on the floor for awhile, I lifted myself up to a sitting position. That's where I was when one of the nurses came in.  

"Ó Istenem! mi történt?" the nurse exclaimed. Well, what she really said was "Oh my God! What happened?" but it sounded very Hungarian for some reason. 

I offered my perfectly reasonable explanation that I provided you, humble reader, a paragraph back. But this nurse was in a tizzy. "Várj! Az orvos lesz!" and Hungarian nurse lady ran out to go get the doctor who returned with another nurse in tow.

"Oh my God! What happened?" the doctor exclaimed. (The doctor, by the way? Not Hungarian.) So I explained again: felt faint, sought to avoid falling on the floor by lying on the floor, let the cool tile work to make me feel better, the end. But I could tell the doctor dude was like, "Oh shit! Did I overlook something? Am I going to get sued?" 

I should point out that I had not driven myself to this doctor's appointment. That honor fell to my wonderful father-in-law who was summoned back to the room in light of this distressful occurrence. The medical staff wanted to let Johnnie know he may need to help me to the car. I would point out Johnnie is 79 years old but he's also healthier at 79 than I ever was at 29. 

So Johnnie drives me to the medical imaging place. Before I go forward, couple of things I want to share:

  • Johnnie only drives the speed limit. None of this "within 10 miles over is OK" stuff for him.
  • He keeps his car the way he keeps his house: way too hot. Great if you're a hothouse flower. No so good for anything else.
Frosty the Snowman: "Hey kids! Let's see if we can get a ride with...SPLURSH!"  

But I'm not having to drive at all which is really kind of big deal for me so I try to cope as best I can. 

So the imaging folks do a chest xray which involves a shirtless me holding on to a bar over my head while pushing my manly (OK, maybe not so manly) chest against some kind of glowing screen thing. I vaguely feel like I'm in a gay porno. 

My father in law drives me back home very slowly in his mobile sauna. Arriving at my home 1.7 inches shorter and 32 pounds lighter (oh, I wish), I now have to wait out the clock. I've been advised I should receive a phone call about two hours from now so I kick back, relax and enjoy some orange spice tea.  I don't want to say I was feeling good; in fact, I still felt like crap. But it seemed like it was a better class of crap. 

Then at 2:00 PM, I got the call from my doctor's office. 

"Mr. Long, you need to go to the hospital."


"Er, now?"  

It was explained to me that there was an anomaly in my chest xray and doctors were very concerned that it might be blood clots in my lungs. The hospital doctor would bring me up to speed with more details but I needed to get moving right away to the hospital, specifically the Emergency Room. The ER would be alerted that I was on my way. 

OK, ominous much? Nyah! 

3:00 PM, I saunter into the Emergency Room, this time accompanied by my wife Andrea who drove me there. I now realize where Andrea got here "extremely cautious" driving style from.  At least I could control the heat.

I approach the front desk of the ER and I announce myself. "Hi, I'm David Long." It's not like I'm famous or anything but they were supposed to be told I was coming. But no, the ladies at the desk look back at me with unblinking comprehension. Apparently, my arrival had not been foretold in ancient prophecy. So patiently and calmly, I relay the events of my current plight. 

"Here, Mr. Long, fill out this form, return it and go sit over there" which was underscored by a hand gesturing in a general directionish sort of way towards part of the waiting room. 

3:30 PM and I get called back to an medical exam type of place, I guess? So the nurse opens with, "Why are you here today, Mr. Long?"  Apparently, she had no info on who I was and why I was there. Remaining patient and calm, I relay the events of my current plight. After taking some vitals, I am dismissed back to the waiting area. 

4:00 PM and a hospital administration person calls me over to her desk. "Why are you here today, Mr. Long?" Remaining patient and calm, I relay the events of my current plight. After taking some information, I am dismissed back to the waiting area. 

6:30 PM and I'm in a wheelchair being pushed towards a room in the ER. Four and a half hours after I received the call that I needed to go the hospital right now and 3.5 hours after my actual arrival at said hospital, I has going to finally receive medical attention. But first, my nurse had to ask me a question. 

"Why are you here today, Mr. Long?" 

I should point out that it wasn't just time that had corroded my levels of patience and calm. Over the course of the intervening hours, I had taken a down turn. My pain and fever were getting worse and my coughing jags were growing in frequency and intensity. Also I was both extremely thirsty and more than a bit hungry as well.  

But despite that....

Patiently and calmly,I relay the events of my current plight. 

So the nurse dutifully hooks me up to a blood pressure and oxygen monitors. She also plugs an IV port into my right arm in the crook of my elbow through which she takes some blood. I note that my handlers at the FBI do good work since the blood color did not appears a lime green which is how it appears on my home planet. 

Hey, I may be dying here but I'm not going to stop being weird. 

I mention to the nurse that I haven't had anything to eat but she says I can't, not right now, in case the doctor prescribes a treatment or procedure where I'm not supposed to eat before hand. 

Being hungry is not doing much for my mood and I can feel my body going through a downturn with increases in feverish aches and coughing fits.   

It's about 6:50 PM and the nurse tells me the doctor will be by shortly. 

8:10 PM, the doctor moseys on by.  

And he asks....

"Why are you here today, Mr. Long?"  

OK, fuck patience and calm.

"Doesn't anybody read a chart around here?!?!"   

The doctor, to his credit, holds on to his patience and calmly explains to me that he has seen my chart but want to hear what I have to say about my situation, make sure he's got the right patient and he's not missing any info. Well, that's all well and good and it even makes sense. But would it kill someone to acknowledge they have seen the info before doctor and patient embark on another journey of answering the question one more time, "Why is the patient here today?"

The doctor acknowledged that might a good idea to address at a later time. Meanwhile there is still me and why I am in fact present in that hospital.  It seems the anomaly in my chest xray was from fluid building up around my heart as a result of the bronchitis. Oh, by the way, I have bronchitis.  Still, they couldn't discount the possibility of blood clots so I would need to go through a CT scan. Finally, the doctor said he was ordering an EKG for my heart just to be sure it's a thumpin' like its supposed to.  

"By the way," I asked the doctor, "can I have something to eat now?" 

The doctor looked incredulous. "You haven't had anything to eat?" 

"Not since I arrived at the hospital at 3:00 PM," I replied. 

"Well, I don't see why we can't get you a bite to eat," and with the doctor went to go see the nurse. 

I looked over at Andrea incredulously. "He doesn't know why I can't eat something? Grrrrr!"  

The nurse pops back in with a brown paper bag and a can of Coke. (Not a regular sized Coke can but smaller cans like hotels put in mini-bars.) The nurse advises that all they have right now are turkey sandwiches and apple sauce cups. I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm really hungry. Besides, how can you screw up a turkey sandwich?

So here's how you can screw up a turkey sandwich. 
1) Start with wheat bread. Wheat bread is in and of itself not a problem but can be if the bread has the dry crumbly substance of parchment paper. I think some of the bread for this sandwich is part of the Magna Carta
2) Add a deli slice of turkey. Literally, one slice of turkey which has been folded over so it's not even covering the length of the bread. 
3) Stop. Heaven forbid anyone should add any lettuce or cheese to this thing. 
4) Place sandwich in baggy, attach baggy to flag pole where the sandwich can flutter in the breeze next the ol' Stars 'n' Stripes. A day atop a flag pole will help bring the sandwich to perfection in terms of dryness, staleness and lack of flavor. 

There was a packet of mayo that threaten to overwhelm the quantity of turkey. And yes, I ate the damn sandwich because I was really that freakin' hungry.

The applesauce was OK, actually. It did not completely suck. 

Eventually little doo-dads were hooked to my chest to run an EKG. After several more minutes of that, I was whisked away to have a CT scan completed. The CT scanner is as close to being on a Star Trek set as I will ever get. The scanner is like a super giant doorway to an even more gianter washing machine. I'm wondering if the CT scanner still really needs to be that big. Yeah, it looks all sleek and modern to me but my frame of reference for this sort of thing is from the 1980s and 1990s. 

It's about 9:30 PM when I am returned to my room. My physical symptoms of discomfort that started this whole mess in the first place were just getting worse. So far I wasn't seeing any return on investment for my time and suffering. 

About 10:15 PM, the doctor wanders in to tell me the good news. I don't have blood clots. I just have Chronic Bronchitis. 

Well. That is... good to know. That I don't... have... anything.... like blood clots. 

As i'm being wheeled out to the ER entrance at 11:15 PM, in my mind I have become the Joker from The Dark Knight and I'm leveling this god forsaken place to the ground. 

As my wife directs the car to drive us back to our Fortress of Ineptitude, I hunker down in the folds of my coat, seeking warmth against the chill of the winter night and the chills that come from within.  I was leaving this hospital feeling worse than when I entered it. 

Sorry, this particular tale of woe still has a bit more for me to relay. I'll pick that thread up in Tuesday's post. Tomorrow is a Sunday post where I'll do something Doctor Who related and Monday will be about the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl #50

Until then, remember to be good to one another.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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